Minority Businessperson of the Year finalist: Don Kelin
Don Kelin – a member of the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma – considers himself an “Indianpreneur,” employing the traditional values of his Native American people in his professional and personal transactions.
“He’s passionate about Indian people,” said Dee St. Cyr, director of corporate development at CADDO Solutions and board chair for the Rocky Mountain Indian Chamber of Commerce of Denver (RMICC) – an organization founded by Kelin in 1989. “If community members come to him, he gives them whatever it is they need: a place to stay, groceries, a job. He doesn’t do it for the recognition.”
And he runs his business the same way.
With more than 23 years of experience and a roughly 25,000 item-catalog of ergonomic workplace products and printing services, Denver-based CADDO continuously strives to provide a seamless office product and printing network for customers across the nation. Under Kelin’s leadership, CADDO has expanded to become the largest 100 percent American Indian-owned office product company in the country, with its aggressive e-commerce platform and the personal touch Kelin inspires throughout his 18-person team.
“To him, a contract is just a piece of paper,” St. Cyr said. “When he does business, he shakes hands and gives his clients his word. That way over time, he not only gets customers, but keeps them. It’s a unique way to behave in today’s marketplace. His leadership skills permeate the entire organization.”
Furthermore, Kelin’s community commitment is evidenced by his involvement and support of organizations such as the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Colorado Indian Education Foundation and many others.
Kelin preaches what he practices as well, in hope that a larger community impact is possible with combined efforts. “Accept responsibility to assist and train others,” Kelin advised in a 2004 speech delivered to more than 3,000 Native American business owners, tribally owned businesses, government agencies and corporate partners, while serving as chairman of the board for the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development. “Too often we are too self-centered and forget on whose shoulders we were able to elevate ourselves.”